K.M. Weiland’s thoughts on Are You Over-Thinking Your First Draft?, along with Margot’s characteristically insightful post Even the Best Fall Down Sometimes are especially timely posts for me as I struggle with what to do next now that I have a reasonably polished version of a first draft of my new novel Midnight in Valhalla. BTW is a polished first draft an impossibility? Maybe. Anyway first drafts are at once the bane and the joy of the writer. I suppose the phenomenon works for nonfiction as well as well as fiction, but it seems especially to apply to fiction. Bottom line: first drafts are by definition imperfect, even a little sloppy. They don’t need to be perfect, they just need to get done. But in either case K.M.’s basic point is so well taken: write it all down, don’t worry that it’s perfect the first time, and get to the revising. I would only add, for me anyway, few things are as terrifying as a blank page, but one has to start somewhere and best just to begin writing something.
A nice luxury of a first is that we don’t have to worry about those dreaded adverbs, as Janice Hardy reminds us in her post How To Make Adverbs Work for You : “As bad a rep as adverbs have, they’re actually pretty handy during a first draft. They allow us to jot down how a character feels or speaks without losing our momentum. We can keep writing, and go back and revise later.”
But on first drafts generally I’ll end with a quote by Karen Miller:
“Think of a first draft as a rough pencil sketch that gives you the framework for the story you’re telling. Like an artist, you’ll add the colour and detail later. Just get the bones down, so you can step back from the canvas and see what you’ve done. See what’s good about it, and what’s bad. What parts are still too sketchy, and what’s been perfectly captured. Smile at the latter, get to work on the former.” - The Tyranny of the First Draft
Further reading: Stuck? Try Writing Badly ; Knocking Out That First Draft